Petrarch’s The Ascent of Mount Ventoux

To Dionisio da Borgo San Sepolcro

Petrarch is often described as the first modern man, and, even before Renaissance painters worked out the rules for perspective, the poet had been able to develop an historical perspective on the past.  His decision to climb Mt. Ventoux is interpreted as the first sign of the individual restlessness that bore fruit (much of it sour) during the Renaissance and Enlightenment.  What Petrarch really gained from his mountain-top perspective on the world, however, was a longing to return to his beloved Italy and a renewed sense of humility. 

At the time fixed we left the house, and by evening reached Malaucene, which lies at the foot of the mountain, to the north.  Having rested there a day, we finally made the ascent this morning, with no companions except two servants; and a most difficult task it was.  The mountain is a very steep and almost inaccessible mass of stony soil.  But, as the poet has well said, “Remorseless toil conquers all.”  It was a long day, the air fine.  We enjoyed the advantages of vigour of mind and strength and agility of body, and everything else essential to those engaged in such an undertaking and so had no other difficulties to face than those of the region itself.  We found an old shepherd in one of the mountain dales, who tried, at great length, to dissuade us from the ascent, saying that some 50 years before he had, in the same ardour...

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